The deadline for the completion of the European Union’s (EU) antitrust enquiry into Boeing's USD4.2 billion dollar bid to buy 80% of Embraer's commercial jets division has been extended to April 30, a filing posted on the bloc’s website on January 9 said. The probe was originally set to conclude in 2019, however, European antitrust regulators decided in October last year that they wanted to delve deeper into the terms of the agreement and would, therefore, need more time.

The investigation, where the EU has now asked for more than 1.5 million pages of information and data covering over 20 years of sales campaigns, which Boeing has now provided, was suspended until January 6. The US, Japan and China have already approved the deal, and Brazil is expected to confirm its preliminary approval soon.

The scale of the request highlights the regulator's concerns over the proposed deal, which it believes will reduce the number of major players in the global commercial jet market from three to two, two sources told Reuters last month.

Any delay in the EU's signing off on the deal will pile further pressure on new Boeing president David Calhoun, as the link with the Brazilian manufacturer is seen as critical for the US company's long-term market strategy, as it seeks to compete with Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) in the less-than-150-seat aircraft segment. The European manufacturer acquired the C-Series program from Embraer's main competitor - Canada's Bombardier Aerospace (BBA, Montréal Trudeau) - in 2017 and is currently clocking up sales of the CS100 (rebranded as the A220-100) and the CS300 (rebranded as the A220-300) while its US rival's own regional jet deal is mired in a protracted approval process.

Beyond extending the two manufacturer's battle lines for orders into the smallest capacity market segment, the respective deals for the Brazilian and Canadian regional aircraft producers are deemed critical for both companies, especially when China becomes more of a competitor in the commercial jet market.

According to Reuters, the US airframer's interest in Embraer centres on the Brazilians' lower-cost engineering, industrial footprint and technology such as landing gear; expertise that will allow it to eventually develop a replacement for the B737 MAX.

The EU's probe into the Boeing-Embraer deal is just one aspect of strained relations between the two trading blocs, as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will have to determine whether it will recertify the troubled B737 MAX. There is also the likelihood of EU counter-tariffs being imposed this year after the US taxed Airbus aircraft in a WTO subsidy dispute.

While European officials deny any link between the trade and competition disputes, Airbus is keen to ensure that its A220 aircraft retain a hard-fought level playing field in the US, having already overturned a tariff on the aircraft imposed by the US authorities.

Brazilian and US sources told Reuters that Airbus is using its market power to offer attractive deals to airlines wherein it packages its A220 with other models in its lineup. As such, the delay in the Boeing-Embraer tie-up can only benefit the European manufacturer.